Where Dreams meet Reality – Getting our Coffee to Market [Summer 2019]

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

Francis of Assisi

At this point, we have a vision, but now we need to convert this dream into something real, that complies with FDA Regulations. It’s a very exciting, but also a little over-whelming, because, frankly, I have no idea what I am doing, but I have a strategy:

Step 1: Get Started – Farmers Markets

Step 2: Build on our foundation, coffee bus

Step 3: World Fame and Fortune

Step 4: Buy Grand Cayman

Baby Steps – Getting our first customer

As I started working through the details, I quickly realized that even a simple coffee shop is way more complex than I initially expected. I mean it’s coffee, not rocket science. It seemed that the more I learned, the more clueless I felt. Navigating health codes, business licenses, P&L projections, etc. frankly boggled my mind.

Initially we were planning on starting directly with our coffee bus, jumping into our grand design. But as the to-do lists piled up and the details became more and more complicated, I felt we needed a mid-way point.

Instead of taking the bull by the horns for our first rodeo,  maybe we would try grabbing a calf by the tail, or pet a baby lamb. We would start with a baby step to build our core idea, and test the waters, and work out some kinks. 

As I researched, I discovered this was called a MVP – Minimum Viable Product. This is the simplest version of your product that you can get to market. It may not live up to our dreams of grandeur (yet), but it acts as a jump start and keeps us from stalling before we even start.

So, for us to get to market, our first step would be to set up a basic tent at a local farmers market, offering 2 products. Specialty Cold Brew, and Pour Over. This simplified version of the business will help us to refine our recipe, our idea, and provide hands-on education, allowing us to make adjustments before we pull out all the stops for our bus next spring. This will also help us to turn a little profit immediately, pay for some of the initial gear, and hopefully help us to tackle some of the investment required for the bus, and more expensive items we hope to offer.

We have limited time this summer,  so our goal is to set up at 3 farmers markets.  Not exactly earth-shattering,  but I think this will help lay a foundation for next spring. 

My expectation is simply to learn some of the basics, and take some of the learnings/stress off the table for next summer.  Initially, we don’t intend to do much advertising or marketing, until we have some experience under our belt,  and more pieces in place.  That way, if we crash and burn, we can start fresh next summer. 

The Details

Our current focus is working through the ground-work, such as navigating health codes, figuring out necessary equipment and estimating our expected costs and profit.  We are also conducting lots of coffee research, through books, blogs, and ordering coffee from specialty roasters and practicing our techniques and trying to build some connections. 

Current Focus Areas:

  • Health Department Application
  • Farmers Market Application
  • Develop equipment List
  • Booth Layout
  • Logo/Branding/Website
  • Coffee Research and testing
  • Profit/Loss Estimations

Questions for the experts:

For those who have been there, I would love your feedback!!  Please pick a question or two and leave a comment!

  • What was your biggest mistake starting your business, and what should I do to avoid?
  • What did you find the most helpful at this stage of your start-up?

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